Sermon for German Christmas Eve -
The Bishop Dr. R. Guy Erwin. -
[Note: This sermon was spoken in German. Below is the English translation]
Dear Congregation! First let me thank the congregation at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, and their pastor, Eric Shafer, for holding this German Christmas Eve service yet again this year—and let me thank the children and youth, too, who have performed for us in this nice Christmas play.
Christmas is something special and wonderful. It engages all our senses: we hear Christmas music everywhere we go; we see all the bright lights and colorful decorations around us; we can taste the gingerbread cookies and mulled wine, and we can smell the fir trees—even here in Southern California all these things can awaken in us a pleasant feeling of Christmas. We also remember the celebrations of the past, ones we enjoyed in past times and in faraway places. Maybe we long a bit for our old home town; we adults may long a bit for our childhoods long ago. But it’s a nice, comfortable feeling, and we’re all looking forward tonight to being in the circle of our family or friends—and certainly the children are looking forward to their presents!
And naturally, we rejoice in the message that this holy evening brings: the Good News that God has come to us in human form—as a child in the manger in Bethlehem. The children just demonstrated the story to us in their play. Into the darkness there now comes a light; in a world full of fear and anxiety a new hope appears, and a new peace. This is the true message of Christmas: God is with us—again and always—in Jesus Christ.
We live, however, in uncertain times. In many parts of the world war still dominates. Many live in fear and danger, among them also our Christian brothers and sisters in the faith in the Middle East. And even in the historic Bethlehem tonight, the festival must be celebrated in the consciousness of the nearby wall of separation. Worse yet, in Syria the bombs still fall, and an end to the conflict seems far away.
But even in our endangered, broken world, the Light of God is breaking in again today. And the light that appears is often carried by humans—simple people just like us—people who simply want to help a little. We who speak German can be a bit proud, that Germany in particular, by taking on hundreds of thousands of refugees, has set a sign to the world in these days—of what it means to have mercy and to care for one’s fellow human. This, too, is God’s work, carried out by human hands.
Christmas is a sign of joy and mercy in a world full of fear and longing. Christmas is also a festival of the peace that is to come, the peace announced to us by the angels: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. We are these people—God’s people on earth—just like all those who strive for peace and mercy and the good of humanity are all also God’s people.
In this holy night we should remember all this, and rejoice that God has given us a sign of love and forgiveness in this child of Bethlehem. Through this sign, God wants to give us courage and strength to help our world and our fellow humans in their need. May the Light of the World—Jesus Christ our Savior—shine this year ever more brightly in every corner of the earth, to bring health and justice to all and to establish peace everywhere!
The Bishop Dr. R. Guy Erwin
Bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Christmas Homily 2015
Sermon for German Christmas Eve
Written by Bishop Dr. R. Guy Erwin
December 24, 2015
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California